tv [untitled] June 5, 2012 10:30am-11:00am EDT
economically advanced countries on child poverty. just ahead of romania. 34th out of 35. just ahead of romania. on child poverty. i do not know the source of that. i take it that it's accurate. i think it's the census bureau. that's not good. and dr. haskins, you've listed several causes, work rates are so low, wages keep it up, family composition deteriorating, weak education system, and you also mentioned in your presentation that addressing trends and although the elderly are doing a little better that children are doing a lot worse. and this number seems to reflect that. could be focus on the kids, how are we going to get more kids
out of poverty? >> the first thing i would say is that we're going to need resources. we have a lot now. but we're going to lose some of them inevitably over the next two, three, four, five years when congress at last decides to deal with the deficit. so i think this the long run, the number one thing we have to do is at least slow the rate of growth in programs for the elderly and increase the rate of growth in programs for children and especially programs that are focused on children's development like high quality preschool programs. we have abundant data from vrs good scientific experiments that high quality preschool can increase kids' development and make them ready for school, and we have a number of good studies that show long-term impacts on lower teen pregnancy rates, higher college admissions and so forth. that would be a place where we can invest and even if we couldn't get money from the programs for the elderly by reducing the rate of growth, not cutting them, reducing the rate
of growth, we should figure out a way to do it with the poverty resources. the committee structure in congress is not helping doing that. but helpful to invest money there. secondly, i think that the work strategy as other witnesses said, you cannot get off poverty in the united states if you're only on welfare and you cannot get off poverty in the unite especially if you have two or more children, if you work in a minimum wage job. so we can't command that the employers pay more than a minimum wage job. we can do that but we'd lose some jobs if we did it. the better strategy is one that we've adopted which is to subsidize earnings to low income families. our earned income tax credit, child tax credit, medicaid program even the food stamp program all made important changes since roughly the mid-1980s up to the last that we know of during the recession we made a number of change in the eitc and the child tax credit that made it more generous to working family psp so that is the strategy that works. that's the only thing i think that we've done that is -- will
produce a fairly short-term impact on poverty. so we've got to income work by single mothers and hopefully by males as well and subsidize the earnings. we need to maintain that system. we've got something that works. we need to expand it and stick with it. >> if 35th out of 35, what can we learn from other countries? what do other countries do that might be helpful here? >> well, first, i've never seen that number before. there are lots of big debates -- >> let's assume it's close. what can we learn from other countries? >> it depends on what you -- if you use our official poverty measure, it's crazy. all these programs that i just talked about aren't included in the official poverty measure. >> that's unicef. >> makes it even more doubtful. >> whatever it is, you're not condoning it. >> no, i'm not condoning it. we ought to think about the problems that we have in the united states. there are some things we can
learn from foreign country u countries. >> any come to mind? >> we've done a number of things that they've done and they've done things that we've done. people tend to think of europe as a bench of liberal socialists. they have very strong work requirements not only in their there poverty programs but also in their disability programs and even trying to figure out ways to encourage the elderly to work. because they're following the principle that in the 21st century governments won't make it unless they have more people working paying taxes and fewer people getting benefits. so i think they've learned something from us. we've learned from them the importance of a social safety net. and i think we do have a fairly reasonable safety net. i would point out to the committee in 2009 even though tanf was abysmal, we should talk about that and the committee should address it during reauthorization, but nonetheless our other programs expanded. poverty did not increase in 2009 despite the huge increase in unemployment because of government program that kept
people out of poverty. part of that we learned from europe about the importance of having a safety net. >> i think it's just -- astounding, more than a tragedy that so many kids live in poverty. it's an outrage. and i just think our country deserves a big black eye for not addressing it more efficiently. my time's expired. dr. lein, senator hatch has are very generous. and suggest that you be able to respond. >> thank you. that i think we can learn both about how to coordinate early childhood education from the approaches other countries have taken so that it's more universally available. and secondly to recognize that the costs of health care and the damage done to families by injury and lack of health treatment are considerably and that bolstering health care particularly for low income adults can make a change in our
poverty levels. >> can you give an example of that coordination? >> the kinds of coordination, so in our country we have basically three different systems that provide child care to impoverished adults -- toim poverrished parents for their children. we have the head start program, we have subsidized child care and in most locales we have prekindergarten. each of those is for different sub groups of children and none of them are reaching all eligible children. unlike a system that has it more tied in to public schools as an accepted part of the schooling system or in a series as they have in france of crutches or pla creches or places that you can take children and it's universally available. >> dr. haskin, the most recent data from the department of health and human services reveals that nearly 55% of work eligible adults receiving assistance are engaged in zero hours of activity.
i'd like you to comment on that statistic, and also do you believe it was the intention of members of congress and president clinton that in over a decade and a half since welfare reform, more than half the welfare caseload would be doing absolutely nothing? >> well, of course, it was not. i worked on the welfare legislation when i was with the house ways and means committee, and there's no question that it was bipartisan agreement that more people should work and that the cash welfare system should not just dispense cash, it ought to enkourmt employment and that it does now. however, i think part of the problem is it's astounding to me that after 1996 the states ran programs that are very successful under almost every count. there was a problem at the bottom. we can you talk about that if you want to. i don't want to say that welfare reform was a magic bullet. but it did a lot that people thought was impossible. we had a 40% increase in a four-year period in the percentage of never-married
mothers, the most disadvantaged group, that actually had job. so that was very successful and subsidized by atc and so forth. but then in dra, i think we made a mistake. we tightened the screws on the states. i'm not sure why we did that. states were performing fairly well. and we put a lot of requirement in the dra that i think it's very difficult for states to meet. and at the same time, i would even question -- and i hope the committee looks into this carefully -- the block grant structure because as gao points out -- and they do have previous reports that show how that money is being spent -- we allowed the states to spend it any way they wanted to as long as it's on low income familieses. they couldn't buy -- build bridges and so forth. that's an issue, too, if we were to do the and i kind of things we're talking about here, that is provide more work services for people who are really disadvantaged, those would be more expensive than what the states are doing now. they'd have to get that money back and from their own state programs.
that's very difficult. this is what the committee should look into. that's a big issue. secondly, the work requirement is so stiff and the accounting is so green eye shade, i've recently had the persons on calling all the state tanf directors to find out how their programs respond during recession. amazing to me over half of them said that the paperwork burden for accounting work and hours is so heavy and so difficult that it distracts us -- now that's a typical excuse that a bureaucratic makes, but i've heard it so often and it does make such sense that i thing there are issues here and we could do something at the federal level to do something about these work requirements and get them above -- that there would be more than 70% of the caseload or something should be achievable, that they're doing at least something. but not meeting the work rirlts as they're spelled out in the current regulations and statutes. >> in your written testimony, you describe the need for
fragile families to form keks both, quote, tight, unquote, connections to an informal support system and, quote loose, unquote, connections to community and civic organizations. what advice to have to this committee or for this committee on policies that can promote these type of connections? >> there are two different approaches. >> you need to hit your -- >> the microphone, please. >> i think there are two different kinds of approaches to take in looking at how you help families become seated in the larger societies in way that they can reach out for assistance and receive assistance in different ways. one is to support them in the kinds of tight networks or networks that are actually to deliver help in emergencies. i think that's one of the reasons why i'm very interested in programs that would encourage the nonresidential fathers of
these children to stay involved, to become more involved rather than be distanced in some cases by the policies that we have in place. so i think there are ways of using public housing policies, child support policies, to encourage that involvement rather than in some cases discourage it. >> ms. brown, when states describe how they spend their welfare dollars, a significant percentage of dollars is spent on services and activities that are characterized as, quote, other, end quote. can you comment on what these, quote, other, unquote, activities are and what challenges for policymakers are presented by having so much of the tanf expenditures unknown and what suggestions would you make for policymakers to achieve greater transparency on tanf expenditures? >> we're actually doing some work right now to try to tease out all of the things that are
spent through the tanf block grant that are not cash assistance, but we know in that other category that a large portion of that is child welfare goes to services for prevention for agency that are trying to serve high risk children and families. >> okay. >> and i'm sorry, i missed the second part of your question. >> the second -- what suggestions would you make, you know, for policymakers so that we can get greater transparency on tanf expenditures? >> well, i think, you know, the tricky part of that is we've heard already that there's a risk of expecting too much reporting and too much detail going too far so that the states feel that there's a barrier or an encome bren, but i do think that as long as -- right now 71% of the resources for the tanf
block grant are not spent on cash assistance. i think it's really important that we have a better understanding of what those resources are spent on. we're hoping that we can contribute to that with this work we're doing right now. >> that's my point as well. thank you. >> thanks, senator. >> dr. haskin, i understand you're main point that you're making here is that the best thing that we can do with this tanf funding is to subsidize earnings, is that accurate? >> that's one thing we should do, but i think training also plays a role. job search has been shown again and again to be effective. we should have more effective job search programs. and the distinction between job search, simply looking for a job, which usually includes some tutoring in how you conduct yourself and how you dress and so forth and having a nice resume, and training, there's a
continuum here. and we need more training. we need more preparation for some of these mother to do well in the labor force and the same thing after they get in the labor force to advance. that's been a very disappointing thing to me is that these mothers do not advantage. tanf should be used for that sort of thing, not just to subsidized income. we have lots of subsidies of income. >> i guess what i'm trying to understand is whether it would make sense in this reauthorization that is contemplated here in the next couple, three months, for congress and for the federal government to essentially say, okay, this is a block grant, but you've got to spend a certain amount of this block grant, each state has to spend a certain percent of it doing a certain set of things. i guess ms. brown, as i understand your testimony, you're saying that 29% of the
dollars that states receive from the federal government is actually being spent in cash assistance? >> that's correct. >> so you got 71% that's being spent in other things and you're trying to figure out exactly what all those other things are and how much in each. but if there are some things that we think are high priority uses and most beneficial uses of this money, shouldn't we say to states, 50% of your money has to be spent either helping people get jobs -- i mean, you know, or job training or cash assistance for people who are earning in the labor force or some set of things? dr. haskins, do you have a point of view on that? >> yes, i do. i question putting more requirements on the states. we gave them a block grant. the idea was the states would be responsible and handle the money well. and now there's some indication, well, maybe they didn't.
maybe they spent the money on child protection. this committee has jurisdiction over several open child entitlement programs for child protection, so it makes sense to put more rule on the states but more rules lead to more paperwork. i'm not sure. it's more important to get the incentives right. >> one of you testified that the case load, the tanf caseload has decreased in some states in this recession. that to me is a sign that this thing is broke. i mean, if this is a program that's supposed to be helping these folks, you shouldn't have folks dropping out of the program when the economy goes in the tank. so isn't some change in the program essential as part of a rewrite here? >> yes, yes. i'm not depending the status quo. i'm just worried about how you
do it. some states feel that people ought to work and they ought to look for work intensely and if they don't find work, it's their fault. i mean, that seem to be the essence of their policy, during a recession. people do find employment during a recession. if we want to have the states spend more tanf dollars during the recession on tanf cash assistance, which is the way we originally thought of the program. we put a contingency fund in the original legislation was supposed to give states more cash during the recession to pay more benefits. but in some states the work message is so strong that the states are reluctant to do things to attract people back to the roll. plus they say that encourages dependency. you have a real philosophical conflict here. and if you tried to do, this i can find ten governors who come in here and say, no, don't do it, that's an outrage. that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. but there's a real difference op opinion here about the real cause of why people don't get tanf benefits.
but yes, i think you ought to look at that. and i personally would support something that would provide -- that would cause the states to be more responsive during a recession, because many of them were not. >> dr. lein, did you have a point of view on any of this. >> i think also -- if you look at -- sorry. we need to look at how tanf operates in a period when there simply aren't enough jobs. and the people that are going to be out there job hunting are going to find jobs in the informal economy. they're going to find jobs that may not count in tanf regulations. and it may take them longer to find jobs. >> the period where there aren't enough jobs may be the new norm. certainly we've had that circumstance for several years since this recession started. >> and so we need to take a hard look at what we want people to do if they are not finding jobs. and what they're doing now, i suspect, is -- i don't think we
know for sure, but i think one option is that they're not joining tanf because they know they can't meet the requirements. >> my time's up. >> mr. chairman, could i have 20 second to add something to this? it's extremely important. when this committee and the congress passed the emergency fund during the recession, it gave the states $5 million in tanf funds and gave them the options of basically creating job business sub sid sizing jobs in either government or private sector, which had never worked before but the states created 260,000 job. how did congress reward them? when the time the emergency money came to an end, poof, it was gone and the state programs have fallen apart. but that shows you the states are highly motivated to try new things and including even the very complex issue of subsidizing jobs in the private sector, 260,000 jobs is one great achievement. >> senator cornyn. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i appreciate you holding this very important hearing. mr. haskins -- dr. haskins, i've
been following some of your work with your sawhill at brookings. i'm intrigued by something i want to quote back to you, and that is you said that if families follow three basic rules, that they are virtually assured that they will avoid poverty. complete at least a high school education, work full-time and wait until age 21 and get married before having a baby. based on analysis of census data, you conclude that if all three of these rules, people follow all three of these rules had only a 2% chance of being in poverty, and a 72% chance of joining the middle class. conversely, these numbers for those people who violated all three rules would elevate their
chance of being poor to 77% and reduce their chance of making the middle class -- making it to the middle class to 4%. so if it's that clear that those three things would be -- raise the likelihood of success of people leaving poverty and joining the middle class, what can the federal government do to help? >> first of all, we did something terrific in the '96 welfare legislation because we strongly encouraged work and i think we have to maintain that message because keep in mind, the poverty rate among kids in single parent families and that's where the highest poverty rate in the country is, is still lower now after two recessions than it was before welfare reform and that's primarily because those mothers are working. and their work rates are still about 20% higher than they were before welfare reform so the work message, it was more than just welfare reform that did it but the work message has gotten
through. that's the first thing. second thing is, non-marital births are a huge problem in the united states and we're trying, we're doing some things but i think we could do a lot more. i've suggested things in my testimony. our teen pregnancy programs, avoiding teen pregnancy, are quite good, and we are expanding those. the administration now is doing evidence-based implementing about $100 million a year and i think that's extremely important. the house tried to kill it last year, the senate saved it. the house tried to kill it year before that, senate saved it again. i think that's an extremely important program because we're still learning about how to reduce teen pregnancy and there are several programs, at least two of which have good evidence national campaigns about the importance of comprehensive sex education, especially addressed to males for the use of condoms when they're engaging in non-marital sex and they don't want to have a baby, and expansion of medicaid to women who are not covered so their birth control is free.
both of those have been shown to produce big benefits that outweigh their costs. so i think it's another thing the federal government can do. i would like to see us expand work requirements but it's very sensitive, i'm sensitive to the point senator bingaman made that work in the united states, we have the lowest percentage of people employed that we've had in decades, probably, maybe even forever, and maybe that's the future. who knows. we're not recovering from this recession very well but there's still a lot of people getting jobs so we should do everything we could to encourage employment. i think we should go to the food stamp program and at the housing program because they both have weak to nonexistent work requirements and that concerns me. i think we might be able to make some progress there. >> when i was attorney general of texas, i was responsible for child support enforcement under the title 4d program which of course assigned to the state attorney general the responsibility to enforce the child support obligation,
establish paternity where necessary, but could you speak, dr. lein, am i pronouncing your name correctly? i know you spent -- had a distinguished career at the university of texas as well. >> absolutely. >> i would be interested in hearing from each of the witnesses or any of the witnesses that care to comment about what should the federal government continue to do when it comes to enforcing the child support obligation and assisting the states? i'll just close before i ask you to answer it on a quick story. i was in el paso, texas and got out of an airplane and a gentleman approached me and told me you put me in jail when you were attorney general. i didn't really know what to expect next. but actually, what happened, he told me, he said when we sued him to force him to pay his child support, his wife had previously denied him access to his children, and the judge at the same time ordered him to pay
child support, ordered his ex-wife to order him to see the children, so he was really -- the child was a two-time loser. didn't get the financial support, didn't get the love and support of both parents. ironically, the story ended on a happy note. he told me once the judge ordered that, he said you know, we're back together again now. had a happy ending. there are not enough happy endings in this scenario. but could you comment, as we approach that function that the child support enforcement function, what do we need to do differently, what do we need to continue to do that we're doing right, if you would address that, please. >> sure. i think in texas, it's been interesting because they've done some very interesting experiments on encouraging payment of child support and those experiments include things like punishments on the one side for not paying, but also, a lot of assistance in some of the experiments for finding the job,
for getting placed again in your community and in jobs, particularly if you've been jailed or imprisoned in the interim. i think the child support payments need both of those. you can't just punish nonpaying fathers if they can't get jobs and they can't earn, but you also don't want to earn them without giving them a sense that it's really required, that they pay over to their children. so i think setting up those kinds of programs that do both, i think also, other than having a threshold, having some of the fathers' money that pays go over to women who are on welfare even if they're still drawing welfare, so that almost immediately, that family system sees the benefit of fathers paying into their system, rather than setting up a system where both parties to it might feel they're better off if the father pays under the table, takes it out of the state oversight.
>> thank you very much. senator nelson, you're next. all right. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i very much appreciate this hearing. dr. haskins, it's nice to be with you again. i served on the ways and means committee and went up against dr. haskins 16 years ago, and lost most of my arguments and provisions, but joined the majority in supporting the tanf legislation 16 years ago and i think it was the right decision to change the program and make it focused on getting people out of poverty and getting them employed. but i do think we have to acknowledge some concerns. senator bingaman already mentioned some of those issues. in a recession we would expect states to be able to respond by putting more cash out there, when the job market is more difficult, but we know that during this recession, the states didn't have that option
in many cases. they just didn't have the fiscal capacity to do what we would have liked them to do, it would have had to cut other programs and they weren't prepared to do that. so i do think it does raise an issue as to how tanf works during recessions. secondly, we can all point with pride the number of people who are off cash assistance, but i think we also have to acknowledge that during the same period of time, using the mid '90s as our base, the number of children in poverty has actually increased in america, over a million more children in poverty. and our objective was to get people out of poverty so i think we need to figure out more effective ways in order to do this. i also want to talk a little bit about the issue, dr. haskins, you raised on the requirement on our states. this was supposed to be a partnership with the states, giving them the ability to innovate and move forward, and i think in many cases, we have not let that happen. there was testimony on the ways and means committee recently by
sean king simms from kentucky who talked about how the 30% participation rate for those on vocational education has restricted that state and what it wants to do to get people employed. we all know that education is critically important. the one year limitation, there are many programs that are two years. i just visited some in the community colleges of maryland that are two year vocational education programs and yet, a person who is participating in a program would be prevented from going beyond one year during their lifetime. so i think there's some restrictions and i also point out one of the base we had back 16 years ago was whether the test should be how many people go off of cash assistance or how many people end up employed. and we opted for getting off cash assistance as the test rather than using those that are employed. i guess my question to the panel is, i think the states have